Tag Archives: Abbess Emma

Name in Print XXV: un treball nou sobre l’Abadessa Emma i el comte Guifré el Pelós

This post was delayed by the time it took my copies of my previous publication to arrive, because my obsessive sense of chronology demanded that I do them in the order they came out. But even at the time I posted my last publication news there was already another in the queue, and in fact had been since December 2019—that different world, when there was no global pandemic and people were still hoping Britain would somehow stay in the European Union—when, from that very international bloc and specifically from Barcelona, this arrived in my hands.

Cover of Irene Brugués, Coloma Boada & Xavier Costa (edd.), El Monestir de Sant Joan: Primer cenobi femení dels comtats catalans (887-1017) (Barcelona 2019)

Cover of Irene Brugués, Coloma Boada & Xavier Costa (edd.), El Monestir de Sant Joan: Primer cenobi femení dels comtats catalans (887-1017) (Barcelona 2019). You may recognise the cover image…

The significant name for me in this story is the third one on that cover, that of Xavier Costa, who will enter our backlogged story next post but, in the short version, was at Leeds for a term in early 2017 and thus found out (more) about my work. Then, in October of that year there was a conference at Sant Joan de les Abadesses, a town that bears its name because of the nunnery that was established there by Count Guifré the Hairy, and about which I wrote my first ever article and a decent part of my first book.1 I found out about this a little while later, when one of the participants got in touch asking for a copy of what would become my Traditio article, and I was sorry not to have been invited—there was no budget for international travel, I later found out—but was intrigued to know that new work was being done on the abbey.2 But although I had not been able to go to the conference, Xavier being one of the editors meant that I did get invited to contribute to the resulting book, which meant an awful lot to me as it was almost my first recognition from the Catalan academy. At first, being given carte blanche, I offered something that turned out to be almost exactly what Xavier had been intending to write, but when that became clear I instead offered to take over a chapter about the establishment of the nunnery for which they had no author assigned.

Now, this was not as easy as it might have been. You might think I could just have reprised my older work, but in the first place there was newer work to take into account, in the second place I’d changed my mind about some of the issues and most of all, this meant writing about Guifré the Hairy and his establishment of power in Osona, a subject on which I had previously written probably a paragraph at most and that not very well thought out.3 It’s not as simple as it seems, because as far as we can tell no-one had given Guifré rights over the county of Osona, which had been out of Carolingian control for fifty years when he succeeded to Barcelona, and why communities there should have engaged with him is not actually clear if you don’t start from the position that a nation was there waiting to be formed. This is, though, the same problem to which I devoted a tangled series of blog posts a few years back, which then turned into an article that was nearly lost, and that meant that I did myself now have a theory about how he might have done this, which to my delight seemed to fit.4 And with that realised, suddenly this became much easier to write…

Title page of Jonathan Jarrett, "La fundació de Sant Joan en el context de l'establiment dels comtats catalans", in Brugués, Boada & Costa, El monestir de Sant Joan, pp. 83-107

Title page of Jonathan Jarrett, ‘La fundació de Sant Joan en el context de l’establiment dels comtats catalans’, in Brugués, Boada & Costa, El monestir de Sant Joan, pp. 83-107

I got to write it in English, thankfully, but thanks again to the good offices of Xavier Costa it has been published in really quite stylish Catalan, which is another first for me.5 I got to see one or two of the other chapters in draft, so could take account of them, but with others there are inevitable differences of opinion and interpretation. Well, that is the nature of scholarship and I hope that even though I have not met all of my fellow contributors we will still be able to talk about those differences some day in the future, maybe even back at Sant Joan. Until then, here is a volume that is the state of our understanding about the place and its importance in the formative period of Catalan history, in which I’m very proud to appear, alongside some expert company. Thankyou Xavier, the other editors and the Abadia de Montserrat!

1. Jonathan Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (2004 for 2003), pp. 229–258, DOI: 10.1111/j.0963-9462.2004.00128.x; idem, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: Pathways of Power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 23-72.

2. That article, in case you had forgotten, being Jarrett, “Nuns, Signatures, and Literacy in late-Carolingian Catalonia” in Traditio Vol. 74 (Cambridge 2019), pp. 125–152, DOI: 10.1017/tdo.2019.7.

3. The newer work mainly being Antoni Pladevall, “El monestir de Sant Joan, del cenobi benedictí femení a canònica clerical” in Marta Crispi and Miriam Montraveta (edd.), El monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses (Sant Joan de les Abadesses 2012), pp. 18–37 and Martí Aurell i Cardona, “Emma, primera abadessa de Sant Joan de les Abadesses”, ibid., pp. 38–45, neither of which had noticed Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future”, but also Manuel Riu, “Església i poder comtal al territori d’Urgell: Guifré el Pilós i la reorganització de la Vall de Lord” in Anuario de Estudios Medievales Vol. 29 (Barcelona 1999), pp. 875–898, online here, and Ramon Ordeig i Mata, “Cel·les monàstiques vinculades a Guifré el Pelós i a la seva obra repobladora (vers 871-897)”, edd. S. Claramunt and A. Riera, in Acta Historica et Archaeologica Mediaevalia Vol. 22 (Barcelona 2001), pp. 89–119, online here, both of which I’d shamefully missed in my own earlier work because, I know it’s hard to believe, but back then most journals weren’t online! Current issues of Catalan stuff were really hard to get in the UK even in 2007, when my book manuscript was sent off. Doubtless Drs Pladevall and Aurell could say something similar about my stuff.

4. That article being Jonathan Jarrett, “Engaging Élites: counts, capital and frontier communities in the ninth and tenth centuries, in Catalonia and elsewhere” in Networks and Neighbours Vol. 2 (2014), pp. 202–230, online here.

5. Citation therefore being Jonathan Jarrett, “La fundació de Sant Joan en el context de l’establiment dels comtats catalans” in Irene Brugués, Coloma Boada and Xavier Costa (edd.), El monestir de Sant Joan: Primer cenobi femen&icute; dels comtats catalans (887-1017) (Barcelona 2019), pp. 83–107.

Expressions of Hispanist medevalist community, in Exeter

We seem now to be firmly into June 2013 in my never-decreasing backlog of reporting, and next up in it was a day out to Exeter, somewhere I hadn’t been for a long time but which called me now for the same reason as it often has before, a gathering of the intermittent organisation known as Historians of Medieval Iberia. The main reason this had occurred was the presence in the UK of a man much cited here, Professor Jeffrey Bowman, visiting Exeter, because of which Professor Simon Barton thereof had wanted to organise a day symposium, and so being called we variously went. Due to the uselessnesses of First Great Western trains, I was only just in time for the first paper, but in time I was, and the running order was as follows, in pairs of papers.

  • Jeffrey A. Bowman, “Lordship and Gender in Medieval Catalonia”
  • Jonathan Jarrett, “Per multa curricula ex parte destructa: membership of a Church community in Catalonia c. 1000″
  • Robert Portass, “Doing Business: was there a land market in tenth-century Galicia?”
  • Teresa Tinsley, “Hernando de Baeza and the End of Multicultural Iberia”
  • Graham Barrett, “Beyond the Mozarabic Migration: frontier society in early medieval Spain”
  • Simon Barton, “The Image of Aristocracy in Christian Iberia, c. 1000-c. 1300: towards a new history”

Professor Bowman’s paper is now out as an article, but some brief account may be of interest anyway.1 The way it worked was to do what I love doing, standing Catalonia up as a better-evidenced counter-example to a broader theory, in this case that of Georges Duby that female lordship as early as the tenth century was an incredibly rare occurrence seen as a pale imitation of masculinity. To do this involved setting up some kind of definition of lordship, which Professor Barton suggested should at least include fighting, doing justice, controlling castles, diplomacy and ‘special projects’. Women with military rôles are not unknown in the Catalan records (wait for a future post here, as I think the phenomenon goes down lower than Professor Bowman had time to look), countesses in the eleventh century at least certainly presided over courts alone, a good few held castles in fief (or by other arrangements2), we have various Arabic testimonies to the countesses of Barcelona being conduits for diplomatic communication and under ‘special projects’, if we mean things like land clearance, Abbess Emma is an obvious example.3

Seal of Countess Ermessenda of Barcelona, Girona and Osona in the Museu Diocesà de Girona

Seal of Countess Ermessenda of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, a woman who would not give up government till there was no choice, in the Museu Diocesà de Girona

So that case looks pretty much made: in this area, for that definition of lordship (and it does occur to me now that it is a very tenth-century-and-later one because of the inclusion of castles, though one could still say the same of Dhuoda I guess), it’s hard to see anything odd about female participation in lordship here and we should stop thinking it odd. And I suppose I’d agree with that, and not necessarily just here (another future post) but there does still seem to me to be a difference, in the Languedoc at least where the ninth century gives enough to compare with, between the rôles in and frequency with which women appear in charters, especially as far as their titles go, to suggest that even if this situation wasn’t odd, it might still be new. It did, however, last: Professor Bowman was keen to stress in questions that those who have looked for a shift towards a lineage system here have found it hard to locate over any timeframe much shorter than a century.4

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

As for me, little enough needs saying there: in the throes of another project entirely and with no time to come up with two papers so close to each other from it, I’d offered the latest version of the now-legendary Sant Pere de Casserres paper; I ran through where the place is, what the sources are, why there’s a problem with the narrative of its foundation and what the actual story might be that would fit it; Graham Barrett suggested some modifications to my Latin and then the questions were all for Professor Bowman, which is fine as he was building a much bigger thesis. One of my problems with the Casserres paper is working out what larger point it makes; the other, of course, is non-responsive archives, but that’s a bigger problem than just here…

The monastery of San Salvador de Celanova in its modern form

The monastery of San Salvador de Celanova in its modern form

The second session put two rather less-connected papers together. Rob was out to demonstrate peasant access to the land market in his corner of early medieval Spain, which has often been overlooked because the dominant Spanish historiography interested in peasants has been more interested in how they resisted power than how they cooperated with it.5 This Marxist perspective needs rethinking, argued Rob, not least because many of these peasants did not live in the Marxist ‘peasant mode’, but operated in both vertical and horizontal networks of power and assistance. Even when those networks led to the monastery of Celanova, whence most of Rob’s material, it was not always to peasant disadvantage to cut a deal with the monks, whose rents were limited, and the land that was then sold to them had often come from other peasants previously. The problem here is of course the definition of peasant, but I think I would agree that whatever we call the free smallholders here they could happily do business with each other, and do so with an eye to their own benefit.6

The Alhambra palace in Granada

The Alhambra palace in Granada, now very keen to be widely known as a World Heritage site

Miss Tinsley’s paper came from a completely different place, sixteenth-century Granada, where one Hernando de Baeza, a Christian interpreter for the last lords of the Muslim state there, was writing a history of recent events. This man is almost exactly the author a multicultural twenty-first century reading of events at the end of Muslim rule in Spain wants: his sources included Africans and women, he spoke all the necessary languages and about the only minority group he doesn’t mention is Jews, but the work was only published in the nineteenth century, from two incomplete manuscripts and is consequently confused and disordered in structure, which with its anecdotal style has left it out of most serious historiography. There is now, however, a recently-discovered complete manuscript to work from (which a Mexican archbishop had made in 1550 to help with converting native Americans!) and this offers more details with which the author’s life can be filled out. He seems to have been an ambassador to the papal court for Queen Isabella, briefly papal chamberlain and a protector of Jews, but whom King Ferdinand however booted out of his offices and whose parents had been burnt by the Inquisition! He seems to have written his history in Rome, a disenchanted man. He may therefore have been attempting something like a dream past of late medieval inclusion, before intolerance and persecution wrecked everything for him and his family. Again, just what we might wish but correspondingly slippery to deal with! This all sounded tremendous fun and I hope Miss Tinsley can make the man’s name better-known, although it transpired in questions that she is dealing with a recalcitrant editor of the manuscript who is being very careful what details he lets her have. That sounded dreadfully familiar, alas…

A Leonese royal charter of 860

A Leonese royal charter of 860

Then came Graham Barrett, who was speaking on those curious populations in the frontier Christian polities of tenth-century Spain whose personal names were Arabic, about whom I’ve spoken myself once or twice, including at an earlier Historians of Medieval Iberia gathering, pre-blog. As that suggests, I had given up trying to get my work on this published before Graham had arrived in England to start his Ph. D., but also in the room was Professor Richard Hitchcock, who was fairly sparing about the absence of his more successful work from the presentation…7 I found it hard to rate this paper neutrally, anyway, it was much too close to my own fruitless sidetracks of yore. Graham’s take on things is always original, however, and he knows the documents far better than me, so there were new thoughts available. In particular he raised the possibility that lots of the relevant documents might be forged, although why one would then put Arabic names into them (and the same names over quite an area, I’d note) is hard to explain.8 He also correctly pointed out that migration of southerners was not necessary to explain these names and that they themselves were not evidence of ethnicity or even cultural affiliation,9 but that they might usefully be mapped against other markers of that, if any could be agreed. There’s definitely a project here, but I suspect that in fact neither of us will be the ones who do it as we both have easier things to attempt…

Brass plate bearing the arms of the Lara family

Brass plate bearing the arms of the Lara family

Lastly our host, Simon Barton, asked whether the approximate synthesis to which historians of North-Western Europe seem now to have come about the medieval aristocracy applies in the Midi.10 Most study of the Spanish nobility has been of families, rather than of a class, but Simon argued that a class identity can be seen in formation after about 1050, with a hierarchy of aristocratic rank, heraldry and literature all developing to emphasise it. He suggested that these markers were developing not so much as spontaneous expression of ideals but as tests that helped mark people off from their imitators, which exposes the ideals in play to us in negative. This was a good wrap-up to a good day that refreshed a realisation for us that even if it’s thinly spread and uncertain of duration, nonetheless there is still a medieval Iberian scholarship in the UK and we’re all active parts of it; it’s never a bad time to be reassured that one has colleagues!

1. Jeffrey A. Bowman “Countesses in court: elite women, creativity,
and power in northern Iberia, 900–1200” in Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies Vol. 6 (London 2014), pp. 54-70, DOI: 10.1080/17546559.2014.883084.

2. J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 83-85.

3. Idem, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2005), pp. 229-258, DOI: 10.1111/j.0963-9462.2004.00128.x.

4. Cited here was Theodore Evergates, “Nobles and Knights in Twelfth-Century France” in Thomas N. Bisson (ed.), Cultures of Power: lordship, status and porcess in twelfth-century Europe (Philadelphia 1995), pp. 11-35; Georges Duby, “Women and Power”, ibid. pp. 69-85, provided the basic counter-type here.

5. Classically, Reyna Pastor de Tognery, Movimientos, resistencias y luchas campesinas en Castilla y León: siglos X-XIV (Madrid 1980).

6. R. Portass, “Rethinking the «Small Worlds» of Tenth-Century Galicia” in Studia Historica: Historia medieval Vol. 31 (Salamanaca 2013), pp. 83-103, online here, contains some aspects of this paper.

7. R. Hitchcock, Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Aldershot 2008), building on his “Arabic proper names in the Becerro de Celanova” in David Hook & Barrie Taylor (edd.), Cultures in Contact in Medieval Spain: Historical and Literary Essays Presented to L. P. Harvey, Kings College London Medieval Studies 3 (London 1990), pp. 111-126; references to my presentations can be found on my webpages here.

8. One example would be the apparent court notable Abolfetha ibn December (good name huh?), who certainly does appear in the forged Santos García Larragueta (ed.), Colección de Documentos de la Catedral de Oviedo (Oviedo 1962), doc. no. 22, but also in the less dubious José María Mínguez Fernández (ed.), Colección Diplomática del Monasterio de Sahagún (siglos IX y X) (León 1976), doc. no. 19 and Emilio Sáez (ed.), Colección Documental del Archivo de la Catedral de León (775-1230): I (775-952) (León 1987), doc. no. 68; at that rate, it begins to look as if the reason for putting his name in a forgery would be because it was known to belong to the period being aimed at, which is to say that at least up to three separate forgers thought he was a real historical person.

9. As also argued in Victoria Aguilar, “Onomástica de origen árabe en el reino de León (siglo X)” in al-Qantara: revista de estudios árabes 15 (1994), pp. 351-363 esp. at p. 363 and Fernando Rodríguez Mediano, “Acerca de la población arabizada del reino de León (siglos X y XI), ibid. pp. 465-72 with English abstract p. 472; they collect the Leonese evidence in Aguilar & Rodríguez, “Antroponimia de origen árabe en la documentación leonesa (siglos VIII-XIII)” in El Reino de León en la Alta Edad Media Vol. 6 (León 1994), pp. 497-633.

10. E. g. (cited) David Crouch, The Image of Aristocracy in Britain 1000-1300 (London 1992) or Constance Brittain Bouchard, “Those of my blood”: Constructing noble families in medieval Francia (Philadelphia 2001), to which cf. S. Barton, The aristocracy in twelfth century León and Castile (Cambridge 1997).

Picturing Abbess Emma’s associations

Really long-time readers of this blog will maybe remember a debate that got going on this blog in June 2008, apropos of a paper in the Journal of Neurocomputing that was using medieval charter information to showcase visualisation of social networks data.1 I was initially sceptical but talking to two of the authors got me much more interested and I subsequently talked one of them into delivering a paper in the final Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Diplomatic session at Leeds, a paper that we did want to publish but which sadly in the end could not be included in the final publication.2 That’s still a shame as there was good stuff to think with there, but of course what any historian dealing with dense social data is going to want to know about such software and techniques is, ‘how will it help me with my stuff?’ And since answering that question usually involves a lot of data entry, it has tended to rest there.

"Representation of the medieval social network with force directed algorithm" from Boulet et al., "Batch kernel SOM and related Laplacian methods for social network analysis", fig. 1

There is also the question of how much a “Representation of the medieval social network with force directed algorithm” like this from Boulet et al., “Batch kernel SOM and related Laplacian methods for social network analysis”, fig. 1, can tell you by itself, which is why of course in that article they then spend a lot of time breaking it down

For my area of interest, this was changed in mid-2012 as the indefatigable Joan Vilaseca of the Cathalaunia website began to investigate applying such techniques to the database he maintains there, which includes quite a lot of the documents from which I ply my trade. Magistra et Mater, who was getting interested in the possibilities of these things around then too, wrote some initial thoughts about what Joan and others were doing at hers in December 2012, and I had already made a stub note to talk about it in October of that year but, well, it’s been queued ever since. There is still plenty to say, though!

The thing that particularly caught my interest was that Joan put up a post on his blog in which he produced a list of the best-connected people in his database, the ones who appear with the most other people, and once the kings who appear in dating clauses and their notaries were filtered out, pretty much top of the list was Abbess Emma of Sant Joan de Ripoll. Since there is perhaps no-one in the world who cares more about Abbess Emma than me,3 this seemed like a really good type-case with which to answer the quesion: does this kind of analysis actually tell us very much that we didn’t already know? And, weirdly, I think that my conclusion is that for me it’s perhaps most valuable for emphasising what we don’t.

Relationships of Abbess Emma in the Cathalaunia database coloured according to grade of connectivity

Relationships of Abbess Emma in the Cathalaunia database coloured according to grade of connectivity

To talk about this it’s necessary to get you the reader clear about exactly what Joan has actually done here, of course. As simply as I can put it, what we have above is a graph built in the following way. In Joan’s database Emma appears in 50 documents and in those 50 documents she occurs with an awful lot of people. Looking for only the most meaningful, Joan excluded from the count all persons with whom Emma turned up only once, which is a lot given that she orchestrated the Vall de Sant Joan hearing in which about 500 people swore testimony for her and then there’s still 48 more documents with her in. That still leaves 112 people with whom she is recorded associating more than once, in fact the total of associations still in the count is 1292. Many of these people also relate to each other and what you have above is a computer-aided display of all those links, with Emma at the centre and everyone else pulled out to where you can see the links. But you can already see from the way that some of the links are made with thicker bands of darker colour that some of these people dominate the sample much more than others. So, who are these people? Well, if you load up the SVG version of this graph on Joan’s blog you can just click straight through to his database records, which is marvellous, but in short the top five are two priests called Gentiles and Guisad, and then three laymen, namely Reinoard, Guimarà and Tudiscle.

Archivo de la Corona d'Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins Seniofredo 39

Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins Seniofredo 39 (reduced-quality version), with Gentiles’s signature lower left centre

This all sounds more or less sensible to me: though I think only Gentiles and Reinoard, maybe Tudiscle, would have been in a top five I’d guessed, I can see why they’re all here. Gentiles was something like the chief scribe of Sant Joan: he appears in Emma’s first appearance as an adult, he went on appearing some six to ten years after her death, and in that time an awful lot of the documents of the abbey carried his scribal signature, even though as Federico Udina pointed out when he edited these documents, they’re not all in the same hand. This presumably means that he had subordinates signing stuff off for him and that his name was important enough that it still had to be there.4 Guisad was another frequent scribe for the abbey, apparently older, and he also appeared on the panel of a couple of the hearings in which Emma pursused people for her rights over their land.5 Reinoard was headman of one of the settlements in the Vall de Sant Joan and worked as court enforcer for Emma once as well as appearing in court when she called them, he was a collaborator of hers whom I’ve discussed elsewhere.6 Tudiscle and Guimarà present a more interesting case: these are two of the landowners whom Emma took to court, but in both cases those episodes were part of a longer relationship with the abbey which had here broken down. I’ve written about these two as well precisely because I think that in Tudiscle’s case the hearing was part of mending that relationship, as his importance seems not to have suffered subsequently, whereas Guimarà seems subsequently not to have worked with the abbess and in fact seems to have managed to shift quite a lot of property once donated to the nunnery onto Emma’s little brother, Count-Marquis Sunyer of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, as part of Sunyer’s campaign to clip his sister’s independently-ruled abbey’s wings.7 But before that he had worked for Emma, and these people certainly make good people to study if you want to understand how Emma worked, which is of course why I did.

Relationships of Abbess Emma in the Cathalaunia database, sorted by modularity

The same relationships now displayed according to their modularity, that is, by the size of the groups internal to the data

So, the first answer to the great question about whether this tells me anything looks like ‘no’; I had already found these people by older methods. But I’m arguably not the target here: the thing is that those methods were very like what Joan’s programming all but automates. I went through the documents, made note of the names who recurred most, assembled profiles of their appearances and decided who were the people I could tell the story with. Joan’s database and graphing together mean that I could, if I was starting again, do in about ten minutes the same exercise that took me weeks when I actually did it. I could do (and may do) the same thing now with Count-Marquis Guifré II Borrell, Sunyer’s predecessor and brother, for whom I haven’t done the same kind of background data-crunching, with far less trouble than I was anticipating. So in terms of research facilitation for others, this is a huge step forward even if it doesn’t help me. I can in fact only tell how much use it is precisely because I’d done it already by another means! (Whether Joan had to put fewer hours in to make it happen than I did for my research is another question of course…)

All the same, as I said above, what it now makes me think is how imperfect our data sometimes is for the kind of questions we might like to ask. If, on first principles, we asked ourselves who the principal contacts of an early medieval abbess was, we would probably presume that the main ones were her nuns. So indeed they may have been here, but as I’ve observed in a supposedly-forthcoming paper, while Emma was in charge of Sant Joan we know the names of only two other nuns, and those are only seen as they join the nunnery, we’ve no idea what Emma’s relations with them were like.8 If we then allowed ourselves to remember that this abbess was a count’s daughter, we might then think about her family as an important second string. But Emma hardly shows up with her family, and when she does it needs very careful reading: I think she only occurs alive and in person with brother Sunyer in the Vall de Sant Joan hearing where she was in theory taking him to court, for example.9 (She also turns up as a neighbour of land he was transferring twice, but of course she wasn’t actually there for that, though it gives us another reason to suppose they had other dealings.10) Also on the defending end on that occasion was their probably-elder brother Miró, Count of Cerdanya, who in his will named Emma one of his executors and had her called ‘my most dear sister’; I think she occurs with him once otherwise.11 She got Radulf to consecrate a church with her once, I think that’s it though.12 We can more or less see from this that this set of siblings were close collaborators even if not always very willing ones but the quantity of occurrences doesn’t really reflect what we can guess the importance of those relationships would have been.

The memorial stone for Abbess Emma in the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Abbess Emma’s memorial in the medieval church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The information we get from this, therefore, is not wrong but it is partial. Emma probably did see Gentiles and talk with him most days of her adult life. It’s not clear whether Guisad was also a priest of the abbey but if so, he also would have been a regular feature of her days. She placed a lot of reliance on Reinoard, and that relationship was probably important to both of them in raising Reinoard above his fellows and showing those fellows how Emma could reward her collaborators. Tudiscle and Guimarà, at least at first, were more of that sort of person and even if the relationships probably didn’t mean as much to Emma as that with brother Miró did, for example, they’re historically very interesting and anyone working on Emma would be well served by being pointed towards them. But there is also quiet and missing data that must have made up a great deal more of her life, and that we can’t really reconstruct. It’s not by any means the fault of this technology that it can’t bring that to our notice: it obviously can’t give us back information we didn’t put in. But that also means that the technology is no more than one of the tools we have to use to understand that information in its context, some of which context is simply what isn’t there.13

1. Romain Boulet, Bertrand Jouse, Fabrice Rossi & Nathalie Villa, “Batch kernel SOM and related Laplacian methods for social network analysis” in Journal of Neurocomputing Vol. 71 (Amsterdam 2008), pp. 1579-1573.

2. What final publication, you ask? Why, Jonathan Jarrett & Allan Scott McKinley (edd.), Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters, International Medieval Research 19 (Turnhout 2013). You could buy it here if you wanted!

3. See J. Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2003), pp. 229-258; idem, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 23-72.

4. Ibid. pp. 29-30; see Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), p. 205 for the argument.

5. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, p. 59 n. 162.

6. Ibid. pp. 39, 41-42.

7. Ibid. pp. 52-53 (Tudiscle), 53-57 (Guimarà) & 64-65 (Sunyer’s pressure on the nunnery).

8. J. Jarrett, “Nuns, Signatures and Literacy in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, to appear in a Festschrift for Rosamond McKitterick first planned in 2010.

9. The hearing is best printed in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. nos 119 & 120, though the palæographic notes of Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 38, are still very useful.

10. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos 103, 105 & 155. There are a few other cases where she and Sunyer both turn up as neighbours, but not of the same properties, so I don’t think that really counts here.

11. The will is only printed in Prosper de Bofarull y Mascaró, Los condes de Barcelona vindicados, y cronología y genealogía de los reyes de España considerados como soberanos independientes de su marca (Barcelona 1836, repr. 1990), 2 vols. I pp. 88-90. In Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. no. 57 Miró presided over a hearing where Emma was the plaintiff, but she was represented by a mandatory and not present herself.

12. Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 73. The two also occur as common neighbours in Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos 155 & 419, but again that only tells us that they probably met at some other point.

13. Cf. Jarrett, “Poor Tools to Think With: the human space in digital diplomatics” in Georg Vogeler & Antonella Ambrosiani (edd.), Digital Diplomatics 2011, Beihefte der Archiv für Diplomatik (München forthcoming), pp. 291-302.

In Marca Hispanica XX: actual archive stuff

I expect that you all thought this thread was finished, but no: I have just been waiting, for some time, for the materials for this post to reach me. There will be one more, too, but it’s in the queue. (In the meantime, I have at long last created an index page for all my In marca hispanica posts, now linked off the sidebar in Medieval Tourism Pictures.) So: we left Catalonia last when I was stooging around Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic looking for dead counts, in April of this year. But that had not in fact been my first destination when I got into Barça that day. No, first I went here:

Entrance to the Archivo de la Corona d'Aragón

Your first reaction might justifiably be, what were you doing at a high security prison Jonathan, are the experts in your field that difficult to work with? But in fact, the security is differently aimed here: this building is the bigger, newer part of the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón. (Ordinarily I use Catalan for places and institutions in Catalonia, but there was so little Catalan and so few Catalans herein that I think it’s actually misleading. This place is part of a federal institution now and that seems to get right down into its hiring culture and language of operation.)

Entrance to the Archivo de la Corona d'Aragón

Entrance to the ACA; abandon Catalan all you who enter here...

I was here because the paper that I mentioned a while back that is technically forthcoming only not really, of which I have now had gloomy confirmation from its editor alas, really needs at least one good-quality image, and there are several other documents held here of which, again, I have long wanted a decent facsimile. So, I was after getting some. And in some ways this proved to be very simple, in as much as the Archivo and its staff were very happy to make this possible, in so far as they could understand what I actually wanted and I their instructions about how to get it. (El meu castellano es molt pitjor que el meu català; em disculpeu…) In other ways, much like their digital resource search engine I mentioned a few posts back, it was really pigging complicated. I had already identified the parchments of which I wanted images. There was a form to fill out. That form was then approved by a senior person. Now, he could take the (very small amount of money) they would charge me for this and they would send me a CD-R with the images on. But not straight away. No, first I had to send one of my copies of the form to Madrid, to be approved by the officials of the Biblioteca Nacional there. Then the form would come back to Barcelona, someone would make the images and tell Madrid to send me a formal agreement to sign. Once that was received by Madrid, they would tell Barcelona to send me the CD-R. Six separate stages. All this correspondence and office time must have cost them far more than I actually paid for the facsimiles. But, I got the first part of the form away very shortly after I got back, Madrid responded a month or so later, and then I probably waited a bit longer to answer again because of the exigencies of teaching. It still took rather a long time for the actual images to turn up, however. In fact I was getting rather annoyed and afraid they’d been mislaid.

Archivo de la Corona d'Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins Seniofredo 39

Archivo de la Corona d'Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins Seniofredo 39 (reduced-quality version)

But now I don’t mind any more because at the end of last month, a mere six months after I began the process, the images turned up and they are bloody great, as you can see above. So now I can finish this post, and any other gripes I might have had are blown away by the pixel depth and the seamless enlargement I can push these things up to. Look, for example, below at the autograph signature of a certain well-known abbess, which on every facsimile I ever saw of this document before was largely hidden under a huge black patch of discolouration. Now, you can still see the patch: but you can also see the word underneath it. It helps to know it’s got to be “abbatissa“, of course, but you can see where it is. And in order to show you this I have blown it up to something like ten times life size. Trust me on this: you can’t do that with most documentary facsimiles. So I’m pretty pleased with these. I would use the word “fids!” except that I’m not sure any of the readership would recognise it (though we can soon fix that); if there’s any that do, however, that is at least how pleased I am. The wheels of the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón grind exceeding slow and not a little erratic; but look how fine they are…1

Signature of Abbess Emma of Sant Joan de Ripoll

Signature of Abbess Emma of Sant Joan de Ripoll

1. The two parchments are, respectively, Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins, Seniofredo 39 and Wifredo 8, published (the latter with monochrome facsimile) in Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18 (Madrid 1951), doc. nos 128 & 10 respectively.

In Marca Hispanica XII: do not walk whole valley at once

I’m sorry to disappoint Gesta, but I don’t think I can make the extra composition time it would take to do all my Catalonia posts in Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band filk. It seems to me that if I were to do it for this one the song to use would probably be `Ali Baba’s Camel‘, since the placename in question is syllabically almost as long as that title and the references to running miles and miles could probably be left in, and if anyone wants to have a go, I would love to see it. But actually I am just going to show you pictures of a place called Vallfogona, and talk about visiting it.

The village of Vallfogona del Ripollès, seen from the road above it

The village of Vallfogona del Ripollès, seen from the road above it

I wrote at length about Vallfogona in my book, and as far as its early history goes it is possible that no-one knows more than I do about it. Unlikely, I hope, but possible; I know of no-one else who’s studied the area, which was a reason why I looked at it. The other is that it’s immediately south of the church, nunnery as was, canonry, monastery and canonry again as was in between those states, of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, and Abbess Emma of that there establishment made sufficient inroads on the area that we see quite a lot of through the window of her transaction charters for the area. For a while she had land scattered all through it, especially in a couple of settlements called la Vinya and Arigo, the latter named for its founder and now just a farmstead called el Rauric just down the road from the main modern village, Vallfogona.1

El Rauric, in Vallfogona del Ripollès

I'm pretty sure this is el Rauric, but if a knowledgeable local wants to set me right I shan't disagree; signs were hard to find

She probably also built the first church there, which was actually at Arigo, I think, though the documents don’t actually say, they just call it ‘the church’, ipsa ecclesia. But it was close to Arigo, at least, and el Rauric is now very close to the newer church, Sant Julià, whose precursor Emma’s successor Abbess Ranló put up in time for it to be consecrated in 960.2. The current building preserves none of it, we think, but it’s hard to tell, as the building is firstly in danger of collapse and secondly has been rather messed about over the years…

Sant Julià de Vallfogona

Sant Julià de Vallfogona

More beneath the cut… Continue reading

On boundaries

Aerial view of bocage in Normandy

Some modern Norman boundaries

A post by the inimitable Gesta at On Boundaries had me wanting to go, hey, hey look at my stuff in the way that I do, and that seemed best done over here.1 Specifically, among lots of other interesting things about the recent Norman Edge symposium, “Local boundaries and national frontiers of the Norman World”, that they’d just been to, they reported on a paper by Ewan Johnson, which seems to have been called “Land boundaries and cultural contact in Southern Italy”, and which talked about boundary clauses in charters. Aside from the matter of what language they’re in, which has fascinated people like Patrick Geary, there isn’t actually that much work ‘On Boundaries’ in this context that I’m aware of.2 Gesta will probably now set me a reading list, and fair enough, I need it. Before they can, however, I just want to say, I have thought about this for my material, and not come up with much. Let me tell you how it goes.

Almost all of the charter material I use concerns land, and it is usually concerned to delineate that land. There’s a small number of schema by which this is done, right across Catalonia. The one that’s commonest in my area is to describe it by compass points, thus, here, from a donation to the cathedral of Sant Pere de Vic from 930:3

Et afrontat ipsa vinea de parte orientis in strata qui pergit ubique, et de meridie in torrente, et de occiduo in vinea de nos donatores, et de circii similiter in vinea de nos donatores.

The which, translated roughly, goes:

And this vine is bounded from the eastern side on the street that goes to everywhere, and from the south on a torrent, and from the west on the vine of us the donors, and on the bit around similarly on the vine of us donors.

The first thing I get from these clauses is a sense of landscape, therefore. These people appear to be in the wilds: there is a castle nearby, we learn from elsewhere in the document, but there are no other people but them on these lands, and there’s only one road and it leads out. This could be misleading, of course; if they’re only giving one tiny corner of a larger estate they may still be small fish in a big pond who’ve just installed St Peter in their garden, in a way.4 It’s very rare for these documents to give lengths of the sides, so we don’t know how much vineyard was actually involved here. But it’s obviously not heavily subdivided landscape; in other areas you wind up with roads on every side, for example, whereas with some where the bounds are just forest or rock you get the idea that they’re your actual pioneers(-oh).5 So it’s not much like this, with its lots of plots:

Vines in the foothills of the Penedès, Catalonia

Vines in the foothills of the Penedès, Catalonia

On the other hand, it’s also obviously formulaic. Almost every charter in the cathedral archive is like this, but not every plot of land can have been square and arranged with its sides north-south-east-west. Sometimes, indeed, you get the same feature turning up on two (or even more) boundaries, indicating that topography didn’t fit the form, but the form is still adhered to, here at least.6

It’s the ‘here at least’ bit that interests me. That’s how it’s done at Vic; but, for example, in a sale to Abbess Emma of Sant Joan de les Abadesses of land in Vallfogona that leaps off the page of Catalunya Carolíngia IV.1 at me, we get this instead:7

… afrontat ipsa casa cum curte et orto de I parte in torrentem discurrentem et de alia parte in strada publica et de tercia parte in terra Reinulfo et de IIII parte afrontat in terra de te iamdicta emtrice.


… the selfsame house with courtyard and garden is bounded, on one side on the flowing torrent and from another side on the public street and from a third side on the land of Reinulf and from a fourth side on the land of you the already-said buyer.

It’s usually four sides at Sant Joan, too, but they’re not compass-linked, and when necessity drives they’ll go up to five or even six sides, and quite often drop to three.8 This looks as if it reveals more about the land, as well as illustrating that we’re in a more developed zone here: the public street is probably the Camí de Vallfogona which joins up the local area to the strata francisca from Narbonne to Zaragoza and beyond, and the nunnery’s just over the next ridge.9 In fact, if you look at this…

Aerial view of the Vall de Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Aerial view of the Vall de Sant Joan de les Abadesses

… we’re about four or five miles off to the left, and that vague cluster of buildings just visible in the middle distance is where Abbess Emma had her pad. Now this too is another formula, though as I say they do seem to make it work harder here.10 The thing that intrigues me, as a charter scholar, is that they differ at all, because in other respects the documents are formulaically pretty close and so, indeed, is the whole March.11 But these two houses, which are not far from each other, have different institutional practices in the recording of boundaries. (The very few documents recorded in any detail from Santa Maria de Ripoll suggest that they also used this scheme.12) The only formulary we have from this area doesn’t even get as far as boundary clauses, it’s really only interested in how you start documents off.13 So I have no real idea how this stuff is being taught to the scribes except that it’s presumably in-house (and this is why I have, reluctantly, to persist with Michel Zimmermann’s book and obtain various others).14 But in case it also intrigues anyone else, even potentially Gesta or Ewan, I stick it out there.

1. At least, I couldn’t imitate them, and I’ve never heard of it being done…

2. For example, P. J. Geary, “Land, Language and Memory in Europe 700-1100” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th Series Vol. 9 (Cambridge 1999), pp. 169-184. Now, if you like frustration, try pinning down some of the Languedoc references from that article. I found one, not where he says it is. Anyway.

3. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueolòlogica LIII (Barcelona 1999), doc. no. [hereafter CC4] 367.

4. I unpack that idea at greater length in J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming), pp. 122-125, and that is the first time I have ever been able to cite a page reference from this book that now has them, rooooaaaarrrrr!

5. For example, CC4 473, a sale of land in Montpeità whose bounds are given as: “… terra qui est a Monte Pectano afronta: de oriente in roca et de meridie in serra et de occiduo similiter de circi similiter in serra“. I figure it’s not lowland fields here.

6. For example, CC4 561, where the bounds are: “de parte orientis in vinea Auria, de meridie in terra Richila, de occiduo in terra Endaleco, de circi in vinea Auria vel suos eres“, which is one of quite a number of documents out in these once-pioneer areas where the principal landholders appear to be widowed mothers.

7. CC4 229.

8. If this really interests you, I give references and a few examples in J. Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis (University of London 2005), online here, pp. 67-68.

9. I talk about Vallfogona and its social make-up, and indeed the Camí, in great detail in Rulers and Ruled, pp. 30-49 (roar again!), but if you can’t wait that long or want expertise on roads, the Camí is discussed by Jordi Bolòs i Masclans, “Camí de Vallfogona” in Antoni Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica X: el Ripollès, ed. J. Vigué i Viñas (Barcelona 1987), pp. 449-450.

10. The other thing we see, occasionally, and especially where large properties are at issue it seems, is bounds that are continuous, as if they’d been walked out (which they may of course have been) such as CC4 513, where one property is bounded as follows: “de ipsa casa vel de ipso orto qui fuit de fratri meo Walafonso usque in ipsa strada que discurrit ante domum Sancti Andree apostoli usque in ipsa karreira“. The biggest of these is unquestionably E. Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX i X), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), doc. no. 445, which sets it out for the whole bishopric of Osona. That goes on for a bit.

11. See J. Jarrett, “Uncertain Origins: Comparing the Earliest Documentary Culture in Carolingian Catalonia”, paper presented in session ‘Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Diplomatic, I: Formulas and Realities – Did Charters Reflect Real Life?’, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 9 July 2007, hopefully to appear in the volume of essays we’re putting together from the sessions.

12. For example, CC4 603.

13. It is published as Michel Zimmermann (ed.), “Un formulaire du Xème siècle conservé à Ripoll” in Faventia Vol. 4 no. 2 (Barcelona 1982), pp. 25-86, online here. It is, in any case, from later than any of the documents I’m talking about here: see Jarrett, “Pathways of Power”, pp. 63-68.

14. Not least Peter Erhart, Karl Heidecker & Bernhard Zeller (edd.), Die Privaturkunden der Karolingerzeit (Zürich 2009), he says in paltry declaration of intent. (PDF flyer including contents here.)

A retraction: last angry nun neither so angry nor as last as advertised

I suppose it’s a good day when you go to two libraries and come home with not just most of the work for one’s next paper done, but also with ideas for three different blog posts. However, I could wish the first one didn’t have to be “I was wrong”. Thank goodness, however, that I caught it in time to alter that bit of the book. What am I on about? Back on 13 October 2008 I posted a post called “The last angry nun in Sant Joan de Ripoll“. (If anyone reading knows what song I riffed the title out of, you have unusual but good taste sir or madam.) It talks about one particular nun at Sant Joan de Ripoll, Elo, whose signature we had and who from her subsequent appearances could be shown to have been scarcely a teenager when she signed that document, in 948, and to go on to be a probably nonagenarian exile from the nunnery after it was shut down in 1017, who would have remembered almost all its history and would doubtless have had strong and bitter views about the shut-down.1 It’s a great story, but it’s wrong, as a pingback there from this post now sadly declares. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right this time, mind, but after this why would I believe me?

A better scan of the 948 document signed by Elo, among others

A scan, better than I last had, of the 948 document signd by Elo, among others, Arxiu de la Corona d'Aragó, Cancilleria, pergamins Sunifred 39, full-size linked beneath (large!)

You see, the day before I wrote this I went back through the relevant charters trying to count the nuns of Sant Joan of whom we know for a new paper about them specifically. I found three documents in this search that I’d seen before, but before I took this interest, and then I seem to have assumed that my files were complete enough to make assertions like those in the post in question. Now, I could explain at length—by now I’m sure you believe me about that—but I’ll be short about it this once; there were at least two women called Elo at that nunnery. One was placed there by her parents in 926, and she was of important ancestry: her mother, who was called Guinedilda and made the donation, was one of those semi-independent religious women called deo votae, and her late husband, Elo’s father, Teudemon, had held the land that was now being given to the abbey direct from the king.2 (That in itself is fascinating: Elo was presumably quite young at this point, and obviously not of legal age, so at most 13? so her father can only have died in 913, which suggests that he got his land from Odo or Charles the Simple, which is after the Frankish kings supposedly stopped having much influence here.) So they had connections.

Then there’s the document above. There’s more than one signature there for Elo, but that’s the case with several of the nuns; the neat black signatures are all but one signatures of nuns by the scribe (though apparently in a different ink to the rest of the charter? this is a complicated document) and in some cases the nuns appear to have signed as well, the scribe perhaps not expecting women to be able to write and they happy to prove him wrong. So I hadn’t thought about it much; but actually there are two scribal signatures in the name of Elo so there must have been two there then, of whom one could write and one couldn’t. One was probably the royal vassal’s daughter, but the other one, well, she might be our girl, or she might be someone else of the same name. There are two signatures by women called Elo in an exchange of 964 as well, and the same is true there.3 But in 1002 a man called Asner gave some land at Torrent in the Vall de Ripoll to a nun called Elo at Sant Joan who was his daughter, and her focus in that same area means that we know that she is the one who goes on till 1032.4 And that 1032 appearance makes it clear that my claim about her being the last nun is also rubbish.

That takes a bit of explaining (and then a sanctemonialis ex machina ending). The 1032 document is Elo’s last appearance, but not just hers. It’s the publication of a will and Elo was one of the executors.5 The deceased, however, was another deo sacrata, which is the title Elo also used after her expulsion in 1017, and she was called Guinedilda. This woman also appears in the 964 exchange so if there were only two Elos she and Guinedilda had known each other a long long time, fifty-five years at least and Guinedilda was at least 69. Though, even if Elo de Torrent was a new girl in 1002, it had still been at least thirty years since then, let’s not forget.

The thing here is, Guinedilda bequeathed most of her belongings, which were reasonably numerous, to Sant Joan, which by now was a canonry tied to a new and ephemeral bishopric at Besalú, occupied by the son of the count who got the abbey closed down, though it was already by then being called Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Yes, it stinks doesn’t it? But apparently Bishop Oliba of Vic, whom we’ve met before, made sure that all the nuns were provided with a living from the nunnery’s lands at the expulsion, and probably therefore those lands had to come back to the house when they died. It just took these two a long time to do that.

So, to reprise the earlier post’s assertions. If there were two, rather than three, nuns called Elo, and Elo de Torrent is one of those named in 948, she must still have been pretty gosh-darned old at final appearance: legal age was 14, so she must have been at least 14 in 948, therefore 83 or older at the expulsion and at least 98 when she had to see her old cloistermate to the grave! But it might be that Guinedilda, about whose uncommon name I’m more confident, was seen to the grave not by so venerable a fellow nun-in-exile but by a younger amanuensis who might only have been, er, first appearance and therefore at least legal age 1002? Last appearance 1032 so, 44 or older then.

However, neither of these venerable ladies can have been the last nun of the abbey. Why not? Because the ousted abbess, Ingilberga, reported to the somewhat incredulous Pope Benedict VII as a meretrix veneri but installed in the episcopal palace at Vic and remembered there as a venerable and pious woman, was only remembered as such after 1055. Till then she was still alive, being venerable and pious in real time. And she was oblated in 987 and took the abbacy before 995, so she must have been at least 14 then and therefore at least 74 at her death. Guinedilda was older. But Ingilberga was the last, outliving all those who’d deposed her, including the half-brother who’d installed her remorsefully in his palace. She was the last angry nun. And she probably had the best right to be, as well.6

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

1.The document is, as well as at the shelf-mark in the picture caption, edited in Federico Udina Martorell (ed.), El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. 128, and also edited and translated into Catalan in Antoni Pladevall i Font, Nuria Peirís i Pujolar, Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, Xavier Barral i Altet, R. Bastardes i Parera & R. M. Martín i Ros, “Sant Joan de les Abadesses”, in Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya romànica X: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987), pp. 354-410, whence this facsimile.

2. The lost documents were inventoried in the Llibre de Canalars, a record of the abbey’s charters by the chatty Abbot Miquel Isalguer (1457-84), which Udina edited in Archivo Condal, pp. 448-499 for the period of his book. This is no. 149 there, and also Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.), Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols, doc. no. 201.

3. Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. nos 148 & 163; she’s also in Sobrequés et al., Catalunya carolíngia V, doc. no. 360, which is another part of the same exchange.

4. He appears giving Elo land in Gaspar Feliu & Josep María Salrach (eds), Els Pergamins de l’Arxiu Comtal de Barcelona de Ramon Borrell a Ramon Berenguer I, Diplomataris 19-21 (Barcelona 1998), doc no. 62.

5. Feliu & Salrach, Pergamins, doc. no. 226.

6. If for some reason you wished to follow up the sad history of Ingilberga, the basics are dealt with in R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època, (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. J. Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i documents XIII-XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), 2 vols, II pp. 141-277, at pp. 190-200 of the reprint, which is of course about the remorseful half-brother but deals with his family as well, and more personally in Esteve Albert i Corp, Les Abadesses de Sant Joan, Episodis de l’història 69 (Barcelona 1969, 2nd edn. 1999), pp. 43-51, but you would probably also benefit from knowing that the documents of the expulsion are now edited in E. Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari i Escrits Literaris de l’Abat i Bisbe Oliba, ed. A. M. Mundó, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica XLIV (Barcelona 1992), Diplomatari nos. 10 & 49.

Three sorts of priest, part 3: important men, as long as nobody’s looking

Time at long last for the third and final of these posts about the priesthood in my much-beloved subject area, tenth-century Catalonia. So far we’ve had priests posted to distant areas by enterprising cathedral chapters and loaned books with which to preach to the people, or something like that; and we’ve had priests in hilltop burial centres who look like collegiate and zealous preservers of very old jurisdictions right next to that same pushy cathedral, perhaps explaining why its own men are stationed so far from home. There’s an obvious sort of priest remaining, the little local guy who writes all the documents in his community and farms alongside his congregation, but I’m not going to study them, partly because it’s hard to establish that’s actually whom you’re seeing in the same way as it’s hard to be sure you’re looking at a peasant (have I explained this? Perhaps I should), but mainly because really Wendy Davies’s recent work on this level of pastoral care is much better than mine would be and is still developing, so I don’t want to risk writing something I’ll probably have to rethink a lot in a year’s time.1

View of Vallfogona, Ripollès, immediately to the south of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, from the Castell de Milany to the south

View of Vallfogona, Ripollès, immediately to the south of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, from the Castell de Milany to the south

So, instead, there is a fourth sort of priest we can cover, and these ones are even more mysterious than the last one. We have to start, once again, with a certain super-size hearing in the year 913, at Sant Joan de Ripoll as it then still was.2 One of the things one can do with that hearing is distinguish peasants, of course, but that’s not the point today.3 The point is that, as I’ve mentioned before, the document of that hearing was written, in two stages, and then updated twice, by the same guy, a priest called Garsies. I said in the last post I wrote about this document (which explains, you know, what it is) that I couldn’t `describe his status more fully’, and this is both true and false. I can’t tell you what it is, but I can parallel it. The problem is, you see, that Garsies doesn’t appear anywhere else. We now have almost all the charter evidence for these areas in print and indexed, so it’s possible to be reasonably definitive about this.4 The charter must have been written and updated over a period of months, if not years, for all of which, the unity of the hand even if not the ink, makes clear, Garsies was able to be found. The nunnery’s usual notary, Gentiles, signed as witness but didn’t himself trifle with this highly unusual document.5 Something about Garsies’s status made it important that he be involved in it, but we don’t know what that status was.

Sant Andreu de Tona and the Castell de Tona

Sant Andreu de Tona and the Castell de Tona

So we have this guy who turns up when a vast number of people are being sworn to lordship, and not otherwise. He is not a scribe of either of the counts who are present, nor is he a cleric of the nunnery whose lordship is at issue; in either of those cases, he surely ought to turn up again, but he doesn’t. He ought, also, given that he is presumably at least fairly local, to turn up in the nunnery’s documents as a neighbour or similar, but no. If he does hold property nearby, he does it somewhere where the nunnery has none and no-one will give or sell them any. But he is presumably not nobody: Gentiles should be doing this job, so if Garsies does it that means he is a better choice in some way that we can’t quite see. Now we have someone else like this, whom like Garsies I’ve mentioned before without expanding on this odd status. This second fellow’s name was Centuri son of Centuri, which is, yes, apparently a hereditary name derived from the Latin for `Centurion’. He was a judge (whatever exactly they mean by that), and he was also at this hearing, and at two others, in both of which, again, large areas were signed out of the fisc and into ecclesiastical hands. He doesn’t appear in any other context.6 But when you’re appropriating a lot of ex-fiscal property (and there are various reasons to suppose that what had once been the king’s properties was remembered in this area, though I’m never sure how far to believe them),7 apparently these guys have to be involved. I didn’t feel I could justify this in the book, but my feeling about these guys is that they own, somehow, a kind of stewardship of old fiscal lands, to which the claims of the counts, in a time when the kings whose they notionally are still exist but aren’t able to affect them, are dubious.8 So when the counts act as if they can alienate them, without consulting the king, Centuri or Garsies (or both!) have to turn up and show that it’s been seen and is happening with approval of those who ought to approve. That makes me wonder where Garsies might have been to oversee all this, and the best answer, I suspect, is the Castell de Milany, the closest castle to Sant Joan, looking at it from the south across the valley of Vallfogona up at the top of the post. There’s not much property held by the nunnery in that area, and I wonder if that’s not because it was owned of old by someone else. Not much to see there now, though.

Ruins of the Castell de Milany

Ruins of the Castell de Milany

Another possibility is the Castell de Mogrony, out to the north-west, which is a bit more problematic and would make for a blog post in itself. (If you’re interested I’ll write it.) Here early documents do suggest property owned by the nunnery, but I’ve argued that they’re all tampered with in order to claim this.9 There are also old stories of a Prince Quintilian who based himself there in the eighth century, but these rest on hearsay reports of documents which were probably also tampered with, since they came from the same house, and which can no longer be found to have the reading checked. But it was certainly there, and it also has a church which could have been a base for someone like Garsies. The current church is from the eleventh century, but the view down towards the abbey’s valley is still pretty dominating.

View from the interior of the hermitage of Sant Pere de Mogrony

View from the interior of the hermitage of Sant Pere de Mogrony

So that might be Garsies, although let’s be absolutely clear, there is no evidence for what I’ve just said at all, which is why it isn’t in the book. But he is not the only priest like this. Here we are helped by the fact that Abbess Emma was a very litigious woman, and as well as the big hearing over rights at the abbey itself that brought all these possible fiscal stewards out of the woodwork, there are five others of a smaller size.10 At one of them, the panel of those judging includes, not any judges, but two priests. Their names are Arià and Daguí, both of which are interesting, because one would not expect a priest to be named `Arian’ in this day and age really but hey, and because Daguí was the name of the abbot of Santa Maria de Ripoll up the road, and before Emma came of age and took over at Sant Joan it is thought that Daguí administered it for her. He is thought to have died in 902; this is 913 so it couldn’t really be him, but he was a priest right enough.11 And again, these two don’t appear anywhere else; this hearing has brought them to view, presumably because their authority and knowledge was respected by the men of the area, but they didn’t have any visible property or dealings with the nunnery and so don’t make it to record.12 More like Garsies? Harder to place if so, this isn’t a fiscal hearing in any sense. There is a church in Vallfogona, but it’s in an area where property is sold to the nunnery and they may well have founded the church, so we should see these guys again if they were there.13 But what they do share with Garsies is that they show us that local authority, in the informal sense, firstly could easily wear the guise of the priest, secondly was apparently affectively felt by the locality’s inhabitants who respected their judgements and were, presumably, swayed by their endorsements of others’ judgements, and thirdly, could almost entirely avoid interacting with the local `official’ power in any way that left any record of their existence for us…

1. Meaning mainly Wendy Davies, Acts of Giving: individual, church and community in tenth-century Christian Spain (Oxford 2007), pp. 36-65, but also forthcoming work due to be presented at Leeds this year.

2. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. nos 119 & 120, on which see J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming), Chapter 2 part 1.

3. For that, see ibid.

4. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV; Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.), Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols; P. Ponsich (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia VI: Els comtats de Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir i Fenollet, ed. R. Ordeig i Mata, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXX (Barcelona 2006). We await the volumes for Urgell and Cerdanya, the latter of which remains a possibility, but its record is mostly comprised of the documents from the abbey of Cuixà, ed. R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals as “Com neix i creix un gran monestir pirinenc abans de l’any mil: Eixalada-Cuixà” in Analecta Montserratensia Vol. 8 (Montserrat 1955), pp. 125-337, ap., and he isn’t there either.

5. All of these interpretations hang to a great extent on the palæographical notes made in the earlier edition of these documents by Federico udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18, Publicaciones de la Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), as doc. nos 38 & ap. II A; it is also he who identified the hand of Gentiles in various other documents.

6. J. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: organisation of society in the pre-Catalan ‘terra de ningú'” in Alan Deyermond & Martin Ryan (eds), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London forthcoming). The other documents are Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV doc nos 182 & 420.

7. Property boundaries generally, Jordi Bolòs i Masclans, “Paisatge, poblament i societat a Catalunya entorn de l’any 1000” in Imma Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la Fi del 1r Mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de Novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 254-283, with English abstract pp. 285-286; on fiscal persistence specifically, see now Ramon Martí, “Del fundus a la parrochia. Transformaciones del pobliamento rural en Cataluña durante la transición medieval”, in Philippe Sénac (ed.), De la Tarraconaise à la Marche Supérieure d’al-Andalus : les habitats ruraux (IVe-XIe siècle). Desde la Tarraconense a la Marca Superior de al-Andalus: los asentamientos rurales (siglos IV-XI), Méridiennes : Études Médiévales Ibériques 2 (Toulouse 2006), pp. 145-166.

8. On the persistence of the kings you will I hope some day be able to read a print version of Jonathan Jarrett, “Legends in Their Own Lifetime? The Late Carolingians and Catalonia”, paper presented in session ‘Legends of the Carolingians’, Haskins Society Conference, Georgetown University, 7 November 2008.

9. idem, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the Nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2004), pp. 229-258 at pp. 240-241.

10. The other hearings are Udina, Archivo Condal doc nos. 16, 35 & 53 & ap. II 14 & 58.

11. The two priests turn up ibid., doc. no. 35. On Abbot Daguí see Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, “La fundació del monestir de Ripoll” in Miscel·lània Anselm M. Albareda vol. I, Analecta Montserratensia Vol. 9 (1955-56), pp. 187-97, repr. in Abadal, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i documents 13-14 (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), I pp. 485-494, the suggestion of control of Sant Joan being at p. 487 of the reprint.

12. Here and with the claims that Garsies is not seen in other records, there is a big elephant in the room that ought to be identified: the archive of Santa Maria de Ripoll, which was perhaps the richest and most famous monastery in the Tarraconensis at this point, was lost in a fire in 1835. We have a surprising amount of it in regesta and even copies, but a great deal was lost, the regesta are by their nature partial and usually omit witnesses and neighbours, and if Arià, Daguí or Garsies had been based there, we might well have lost the evidence that would tell us so. All the same, I think someone with this importance ought to show up more widely if he was based there; the monks of Ripoll do get recorded elsewhere, e. g. Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. 139 which lists them transacting with the count.

13. On the church, known only as ipsa ecclesia but probably on the site of the tenth-century Sant Julià, see Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, Chapter 2 parts 1 & 2.

The last angry nun in Sant Joan de Ripoll

From thriller titles to Western echoes, although I don’t think Sant Joan de les Abadesses is really the west of anywhere. Nonetheless, it’s back there we go once more, because I have been revising the book again (now in second draft) and come across this snippet that makes for a story such as I like to tell you all.

Cloister of the abbey of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Cloister of the abbey of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Stop a minute in this cloister and I’ll tell you about someone who used to live here, back in the day, when the abbesses still ruled and a dominant Castile was still a glint in Fernán González’s eye. But first I need to set you up with some background. You probably remember Abbess Emma? Well, her end is obscure; no-one knows where she’s buried, and we don’t know exactly when she died. The last mention of her dates from 942, then there aren’t many documents for a bit and then in 949 there was a big meeting at Sant Joan whose matter makes it clear that she’d been dead for a while.1 The meeting was attended by various great and good of the area, including the deacon Miró Bonfill, one of Emma’s nephews, Bishop Guadamir of Vic, Archdeacon Ató of Vic who would be the next bishop, Viscount Guadall of Osona and Bishop Godmar II of Girona, but it was headed by two more of Emma’s nephews, Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, fairly new to the job and probably about 19 years old, and by his elder cousin Count Sunifred of Cerdanya. Neither of these two exactly ruled Sant Joan, because the area had since 899 been technically under royal immunity (King Charles the Simple‘s signature on the document that says so is the blog header up there), but Sant Joan’s properties were mainly split between Osona and Cerdanya, so it was these counts that problems at Sant Joan mostly affected.2

And problems there were, because as the scribe reports, after Emma’s death Borrell’s since-deceased father Sunyer had, ‘out of cupidity’, imposed an abbess of his own choosing, ‘an unsuitable woman, as later became clear’. These dark words are all we know about Emma’s immediate successor, a catspaw for the greedy count who had also acquired a more or less controlling interest in the valley immediately overlooking the monastery from the south, which was now held by Borrell.3 She was also dead now, however, or otherwise removed, and the meeting was to decide on a successor. Sunyer’s malpractice had apparently caused him great remorse in his final years as a monk at Notre Dame de la Grasse, but the counts weren’t letting go of the wealthy convent for all that, and the successor was the recently-widowed dowager countess of Urgell, Adelaide, Borrell’s and Sunifred’s aunt-in-law. She doesn’t seem to have taken the job seriously, goes on appearing as countess and by 956 had been replaced by one Ranló, though as Adelaide had married the counts’ uncle Sunifred II of Urgell in 907, she may well have been dead by the time we first see Ranló (though Ranló, too, was at least 63 by this time and probably older; long-lived religious women is a bit of a theme round here).4

The record of the meeting of 949 over the succession to Sant Joan

The record of the meeting of 949 over the succession to Sant Joan

But it’s not Adelaide I want to tell you about. Here is a scan of a photograph of the record of this meeting, and under it there should be linked a full-size version which blows up rather better. From the full-size version, if not from this small one, you can probably see that there are a lot of autograph signatures, Borrell’s dead centre in splendid capitals probably being by the scribe Guillad, and Sunifred conspic. by his a. but Gentiles, who had been Emma’s chief notary, appearing in the full-size glory of his own hand, above left of Borrell’s, for the last time ever. Never mind him, though, he’d had his share of the limelight; the really interesting thing is that four of the nuns also sign, apparently in their own hands. Guillad either didn’t know they could write, or thought they needed help, as he put their names in himself, but their own signatures appear also, above and to the right of Gentiles’s rather up-and-down rustic capitals hemmo d~o dicata (you see, Emma was a popular name in this area by now…), immediately above her RIHELDES D~O DIcata, Riquilda, to her right Chindiberga, right over to the left again on the next line Carissima, ‘dearest’, and back up again, just to the right of the younger Emma, ELO †. I mention Elo last because she’s the subject of the post (at last, you say!). The nuns Bellúcia and Aldècia are also made to sign by Guillad, but they apparently didn’t or couldn’t write so I shan’t locate their signatures for you (can’t actually see Bellúcia’s, I admit). On to Elo.

We know a little bit about Elo because she goes on appearing after the others. The writing nuns also turn up as witnesses to a couple of big exchanges with Count Sunifred and the deacon Miró, and also their brother Count Oliba Cabreta, in 962 that effectively set up the new comital monastery of Sant Pere de Camprodon on land that Abbess Fredeburga gave in exchange for land that had once been Sant Joan’s, but got taken over after Emma’s death.5 As I’ve observed before, it’s tough to be up against The Man in late-Carolingian Catalonia. Anyway, the same four signed one of the three documents from that deal too, but thereafter we don’t see Carissima, Riquilda, Chindiberga or the younger Emma any more, whereas Elo turns up again. This is mainly because her father, whose name is Asner, seems to have had no other heirs, so kept granting her extra land. As she got older, in her turn she granted this to Sant Joan, which is how come we have the documents.6

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

But times had changed at Sant Joan during Elo’s lifetime, as I’ve mentioned before. You can see from the mess that Sunyer left behind and how his successors dealt with it that the counts were keen on clipping Sant Joan’s wings. In 1017 this came to a head when Abbess Ingilberga and her nuns were appealed before Pope Benedict VII by a load of Catalan dignitaries, who said that the convent was populated by ‘parricides and whores of Venus’ and obtained its dissolution. Elo did do quite well out of her father, but she doesn’t appear to have needed to kill him for this to happen, and Ingilberga certainly didn’t kill her father, who was Oliba Cabreta, because he had died a monk in Monte Cassino in 990. What their personal morals were like I couldn’t say, except that Elo didn’t acknowledge any heirs in her charters. So we might suspect a stitch-up, and even if we didn’t the fact that the abbey immediately became part of a new bishopric of Besalú into which the leading count’s son was installed as bishop kind of clinches the deal. So poor Elo was out on her ear, reputation besmirched and sanctity imperilled, although Bishop Oliba of Osona, perhaps somewhat bothered by having sworn before the pope that his half-sister was a father-murdering whore, did at least establish that the nuns all got an allotment of land to support themselves on before the remainder went to the new bishopric. The ousted abbess got to live in the episcopal palace, even, it’s not exactly righteous hatred is it?7

Anyway, I bet Elo was OK. She amassed quite a lot of land from her father, and she last appears in 1028. So let’s just do the arithmetic there: first appearance in 949, last in 1028, that’s an eighty-year career more or less! She can’t have been very old when she first appeared; no wonder her script is so child-like, she was in fact a child… And since she presumably wasn’t age zero in 949, she’s quite likely to have been ninety or more by the time she died: not a bad run! Which tells us first that Sant Joan were schooling their nuns from an early age, and secondly that that meeting was a bone of contention, because at this rate they got pretty much everyone with an interest in the nunnery, from the oldest (old Gentiles the notary) to the youngest (Elo and Carissima and so on) to make their marks and endorse it. I wonder how bitterly Elo might have remembered that in 1017 when she was turfed out of the cloister where she’d spent the previous, what, sixty-eight years from child to venerabilis femina, and ‘devoted to God’ throughout. I don’t suppose she was cheerful about it.

On the other hand, she must have had a huge fund of stories to tell anyone who listened. The place was being called Sant Joan de les Abadesses, ‘St John’s of the Abbesses’, by then (before then it was just, you know, Sant Joan de Ripoll) and she’d known those abbesses, at least the last four, probably five, might even just have remembered the first and greatest of them all, Emma the elder. None of the other nuns can have lived on so long after the dissolution, she really must have been the very last nun of Sant Joan. She could have answered the question “did Count Arnau really ravish the abbess, Auntie Elo?” with the correct reply, “No, little Quixilo, because Count Arnau was not real,” *whap* and so on,8 because she was there at the time (the Comte Arnau legend is later, but so very annoying that I’d like Elo to have quelled it anyway). She must also have been a figure of renown, of course, a relatively wealthy and extremely old woman with a long career of religious service behind her and the guilty respect of most of the local churchmen. Whether that made her complain any the less or feel better about things, I doubt, but unlike some people she had some basis for thinking that things had been better in her youth, no? So there you go, ladies and gentlemen: Elo, the last angry nun of Sant Joan de Ripoll.

1.Last mention in Frederico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. no. 120; this meeting is no. 128, and the picture below comes from the facsimile in that volume.

2. The immunity is Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 11, and edited in a few other places too.

3. See Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 126-131 & 143-146; the episode will also be covered in the publication of this as Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

4. One subsequent appearance in Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 130 still calls her Countess, not Abbess. On Ranló see Jaume Marqués Casanovas, “Domna Ranlón, ilustre dama gerundense de mil años atrás” in Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses Vol. 15 (Girona 1962), pp. 317-329.

5. Ibid. docs nos 162 & 163, plus also Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.), Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols, doc. no. 360.

6. Her appearances are: Udina, Archivo Condal doc. nos. 128 & 163, Gaspar Feliu & Josep María Salrach (eds), Els Pergamins de l’Arxiu Comtal de Barcelona de Ramon Borrell a Ramon Berenguer I, Diplomataris 19-21 (Barcelona 1998), doc nos. 62, 117 & 187 & Miquel Sants Gros i Pujol, “L’arxiu del monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses: notícies històriques i regesta dels documents dels anys 995-1115” in Eufèmia Fort i Cogul (ed.), II Col·loqui d’Història del Monaquisme Català, Sant Joan de les Abadesses 1970 Vol. II, Scriptorium Populeti 9 (Poblet 1974), pp. 87-128, with English summary pp. 423-424, doc. no 29.

7. The documents here are Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari i Escrits Literaris de l’Abat i Bisbe Oliba, ed. Anscari M. Mundó, Memòries… XLIV (Barcelona 1992), Diplomatari nos 10 & 49; for commentary see Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. J. Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents XIII-XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), II pp. 141-277, or in English Adam J. Kosto, “Oliba, Peacemaker” in I. Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la fi del 1r mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 135-149 or indeed Jarrett, “Pathways”, pp. 152-153.

8. I don’t hit children, least of all my relatives, just so you know. And Elo was probably too frail or too holy or both to do so either. It’s just artistic licence OK? As long as we’re clear. Good.

Are you writing this down? The Vall de Sant Joan hearing and its charter

There is, in the Arxiu de la Corona de Aragó, an absolutely huge charter from the year 913. It comes from a hearing in which the Abbess of Sant Joan de Ripoll, dear Emma of my first paper, apparently took her brother Miró, Count of Cerdanya and Besalú, to court over certain public rights that she claimed had been given to her by their father Count Guifré the Hairy, apparently as part of the endowment of the monastery. There is no such statement made in the document of the endowment, but then as I’ve shown that is a really dodgy charter, and because this charter is not the actual statement of the case, that we would sometimes expect to have under Visigothic law, we don’t know exactly what Emma was claiming. Whether these rights should have been in the endowment charter or not, what we have is the oath, sworn in the names of a total of 493 people living in the monastery’s immediate territory, that those rights should be Emma’s, because of her father having set her up as first inhabitant on this land that he had just recaptured from the Saracens. And Miró’s representative concedes, and there is another document in which he abdicates his master’s rights over the valley which tells us that they were fighting over “… servicium regis minus… id est, hostes vel alium regale servicium…”.

The Eagle of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, in the cloister of the abbey church

Now when I first worked on this document, I was interested in the conquest story that these people were being made to tell, because it really isn’t true. Although the endowment charters of both Sant Joan de Ripoll (now known as Sant Joan de les Abadesses) and its sister monastery of Santa Maria downriver have been messed about with, one of the reasons we know there’s some truth in them is because they record the people that Guifré had bought the relevant lands from—bought, not violently conquered. That has to be contemporary, because by 913 as you can see a different story was already being told. And a charter from 880 records a separate donation to Santa Maria, Sant Joan and Sant Pere de Ripoll, this being several years before those endowments and thus making it clear to us that there were going churches before the count put his daughter in as ‘primus homo’. And you can read about all that in the paper, which is these days online for free from my website (whose publication pages are even up to date at the time of writing). All of which made me think, and still makes me think, that actually what’s going on is that people are dubious about a woman being given these rights, and so her brothers turn up and lose to her in court so as to make it official and written, proven and established. This sort of case is not unknown and is usually called a Scheinprozess, ‘false trial’.

But then for my thesis, I went on to go into the question of who the people were and what they owed to Emma that meant she could call on so many people to swear untruths for her, and that in turn led me deep into the question of how the document had actually come to be written, which turned out to be very complex, and made me feel very clever when I worked it out. Unfortunately the word count is a harsh mistress. Lots has to go from the thesis as I convert it into a book, with new material as well making the pressure worse. So the extreme cleverness, because it is in the thesis to be referred to, and because I will almost certainly use it elsewhere when trying to show that charters are complex documents as I tend to do, has had to go. But I lament it, and want to show off. And, as has been said before, this blog is for nothing if not me showing off, so…

Outside of the cloister of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

493 people is a lot of names. They’re mostly in pairs, too, one man one woman, which makes it seem that whole families were being sworn, not including children presumably but basically everyone of legal age in the Vall de Sant Joan, in twenty-one different subordinate hamlets, some of which had forty-odd people and one only two. So did they all roll up at the abbey and the scribe, whose name was Garsies, write them down as they identified themselves? It would have taken days, and in fact we can show that he did not do this. Instead, he had lists, and we know this because he shows every sign of having been unable to read them properly. We can tell because once the names of those present are listed, the matter of the oath is stated, and then their names are given again, and there are errors between the two sets. (There’s also quite a lot of people gone or added, but I’ll come on to that in a minute.) Once you lay them out next to each other in a table it’s pretty clear. For example, in the first set of names there is the meaningless “Aiorazel”, but the equivalent set in the actual swearers is “Aione. Razel” which makes rather more sense. So were the second set being given to Garsies out loud? No. There is also, in the first set of names, one “Imitara”. Lovely name, but not real; in the signatures, though, she’s called “Marcia”. How does Garsies manage that? Well, this is the second Marcia signing for that hamlet, so I think that what was on Garsies’s list was “item Marcia”, ‘another Marcia’. Therefore both exemplars must have been written Latin ones. (This was roughly the point at which I felt clever.)

I think in fact they may well have been the same exemplars, but the second time the people who wrote them could tell Garsies what they said. All the same, some updating had gone on. 474 people are listed as swearing; 498 sign, and they’re not all the same people; seven people had gone, and apparently thirty more arrived. Children growing up and adults dying off? Possibly, but how long a timeframe are we stretching Garsies’s work over? More likely that a lot of this movement is migration, into and out of the monastery’s valley as opportunity beckoned or disappeared. But Garsies’s work did carry on, because five more names of signatories are later added between the witnesses, who must presumably have been recorded beforehand or else why would these people not be where they should be on the page? So that’s an update. And then six more further down in a different ink, another update. I honestly think that after that there just wasn’t room to add any more, or Garsies died. Because it does seem to have been important that it be him; he didn’t write anything else that survives, never turns up in another document and the nunnery had a kind of chief notary called Gentiles who did most of their charters, including the partner document to this in which Miró’s representative foreswore his master’s disproven rights. So Garsies was dragged in several times to keep this unique record going, and was therefore a man of some special status I can’t describe more fully.

Low-quality facsimile of the charter of the Vall de Sant Joan hearing

Low-quality facsimile of the charter of the Vall de Sant Joan hearing, best I can so far obtain

But the point is, this is an original document. It’s got autograph signatures by the witnesses (though not by the people swearing the oath—given that all their names were on lists, were they ever there altogether?) and everything, the script is contemporary and lots of other things. Any diplomatist would have to call this both authentic and original. And this helps you not at all, because when you look into it and investigate it properly, you find that it was done on at least four separate occasions (first list, second list/witnessing, extra names one, extra names two), that the occasion it records probably never happened as recorded, and that the oath these people may or may not have sworn is a lie. The lesson here is, words like ‘original’ and ‘authentic’ don’t mean a damn thing.

The document is in print as R. Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1998), 3 vols., no. 119, and its partner document is no. 120, but the palaeography is only discussed in Frederico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), no. 38 (and the partner document as ap. IIA). Udina misdates the document by a month, apparently so as to place it at the Feast of Saint John. I discuss this in full in “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 106-112, and the earlier work referred to is J. Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 pt. 3 (Oxford 2003), pp. 229-258. There’s a photograph of the charter in A. Pladevall i Font, N. Peirís i Pujolar, J.-A. Adell i Gisbert, X. Barral i Altet, R. Bastardes i Parera & R. M. Martín i Ros, “Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in A. Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica X: el Ripollès, ed. J. Vigué (Barcelona 1987), pp. 354-410 at p. 363, although it’s tiny (source of the above image), and Udina’s text is also reprinted there. Honourable mention also to the in-depth study of Gaspar Feliu i Montfort, “Sant Joan de les Abadesses: algunes precisions sobre l’acta judicial del 913 i el poblament de la vall” in S. Claramunt & M. T. Ferrer i Mallol (edd.), Homenatge a la Memòria del Prof. Dr. Emilio Sáez. Aplecs d’estudis del seus deixebles i col·laboradors (Barcelona 1989), pp. 421-434. And there you have it.